The cases of infections and deaths from a flesh-eating bacteria called “vibrio vulnificus” are rising in the southeasternmost US state of Florida after Hurricane Ian which caused the catastrophic flooding from the storm.
“Vibrio vulnificus is a bacterium that normally lives in warm seawater and is part of a group of vibrios that are called “halophilic” because they require salt.It is a naturally occurring bacteria in warm, brackish seawater,” according to Florida Department of Health data.
As per the data, Florida has reported 65 cases of the dangerous Vibrio vulnificus bacteria this year, compared to just 37 cases before the storm that hit the state last month.
The majority of new instances of the deadly bacteria are found in Lee County, which is home to the communities of Fort Myers and Sanibel Island, which were devastated by Hurricane Ian.
“DOH-Lee is observing an abnormal increase in cases of Vibrio vulnificus infections as a result of exposure to the flood waters and standing waters following Hurricane Ian,” Lee County Department of Health spokesperson Tammy Soliz told CNN.
“Since September 29, 2022, 26 cases of Vibrio vulnificus associated with Hurricane Ian have been reported to DOH-Lee. All 26 cases had wounds infectious with exposure to Hurricane Ian flood waters that occurred from the storm-surge entering their homes or during post-storm clean-up. There have been six deaths among Lee County residents, “he added.
The health department has warned, “Vibrio vulnificus can cause disease in those who eat contaminated seafood or have an open wound that is exposed to warm seawater containing the bacteria. Ingestion of Vibrio vulnificus can cause vomiting, diarrhea, and abdominal pain. Vibrio vulnificus can also cause an infection of the skin when open wounds are exposed to warm seawater; these infections may lead to skin breakdown and ulcers.”
“People with weakened immune systems, particularly those with chronic liver disease, are at risk of infection, and healthy people may develop a mild infection,” said the health department in the release.